Education is Best Way to Prevent Risky Disease
When the World Health Organization announced in November that the Zika virus was no longer a public health emergency, it sounded like good news. But a closer look at the findings from an emergency committee on Zika show that it will remain “a significant, enduring public health challenge” for years to come.
That means that education will continue to be important so people can protect themselves, especially when traveling to parts of the world where Zika is a higher risk, said Greg Warner, D.O., NorthBay Healthcare’s infectious disease expert. It is most prevalent in Central and South America and the Caribbean.
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The virus is primarily transmitted by two species of mosquitos, which are not native to the Bay Area. In addition, Zika can also be transmitted through sexual contact, or from a woman to her fetus.
“The CDC has recommended that men who have traveled to these areas refrain from sex or use condoms for six months after travel or for at least six months from the start of developing Zika symptoms,” said Dr. Warner. “For women, the recommendation is to abstain from sex or have a partner use condoms for at least eight weeks after travel, or eight weeks from the start of Zika symptoms.”
The biggest risk, of course, is for pregnant women and their babies. Zika infection can cause birth defects, including microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, as well as impaired growth, hearing and vision.
Zika infection can cause birth defects, including microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects, as well as impaired growth, hearing and vision.
Only one case of Zika has been recorded in Solano County, in May 2016. Dr. Warner reports that five NorthBay Healthcare patients who had travelled to infected areas have sought testing, and none were positive for the virus. As of mid-November, nearly 4,500 cases have been reported in the United States, about 1,100 involving pregnant women. “We have posted information on NorthBay.org and shared handouts with patients so they’ll be vigilant and know the risks, especially if they travel.”
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/zika.